DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Bicycling is my exercise. Lately I have been getting a bad pain in my right palm after I bike, and it stays there after I have finished. It worries me. I took a week off, and the pain went away. Now that I am biking again, it has come back. What should I do? – R.B.

A logical explanation for your pain is nerve compression. Somehow, in some way, your grip on the handlebars is putting pressure on a hand nerve. I can’t explain why pain comes only in your right hand, but I still believe nerve compression is the reason.

Make a few bike adjustments to see if you can relieve the pain. First adjust the handlebars. Raise them a bit. You might be leaning so far forward on low handlebars that much of your body weight is supported by your hands.

Next, adjust the seat. If you have a bike that permits you to move the seat forward and backward, move it forward. That’s another way to get pressure off the palms of your hands.

Finally, invest in padded gloves. It wouldn’t hurt to pad the handlebars too. I should have made this my first suggestion.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Do you build bigger muscles by lifting light weights many times or by lifting heavy weights fewer times? I need to know. – D.D.

Lifting a light weight many times in a row builds endurance. Each lift is called a repetition or a rep. Twenty reps of a light weight increases the muscles’ stamina. This sort of training has a value in all weightlifting programs.

Lifting a heavier weight fewer repetitions builds strength.

Both forms of exercise build muscle size, but the heavier lifts build bigger muscles more quickly.

There is a danger in weightlifting. It is the urge to lift weights heavier than a person can handle.

So a little bit of prudence has to be included in your program.

Don’t lift weights that you cannot lift comfortably for eight repetitions. When you can comfortably lift a weight 12 times successively, then you can add a few more pounds to the barbell or dumbbell and drop back to eight reps. Don’t overdo it. Let eight consecutive lifts, done comfortably, determine how much weight you use.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My boyfriend is into bodybuilding. He has big muscles. He also has big veins on his hands and arms. Does this come from bodybuilding? Is it a bad sign? – R.M.

Enlarged veins are the lot of every bodybuilder. Straining to lift a weight impedes blood return for a few seconds. That is enough time to stretch veins.

Enlarged veins are not a sign of ill health. They are a testimonial of your friend’s dedication to bodybuilding.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am 16. I have an 18-year-old brother who has been exercising with weights for about four years. It has paid off. He looks great. I decided to start, and my first goal is to develop washboard stomach muscles. My brother tells me that I can do so by pounding on my stomach with my fists. He says I have to pound hard. I have seen him do this. Is this a good method for developing stomach muscles? – P.R.

Your brother has my utmost respect. His dedication to training has given him the body he wanted to have.

I do take issue with your brother’s advice on building washboard abdominal muscles.

Hitting muscles does not make them grow stronger. It can cause harm.

Go to your public library. You will find many books on weightlifting and abdominal exercises. Study them. Then take one home and concentrate on the time-proven methods of strengthening abdominal muscles.

I have known boxers who train the way your brother suggests. I don’t believe it helps them, either.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My 13-year-old son died suddenly last summer of pneumonia caused by chromobacterium. The doctors here never heard of this bacterium. Could you give me some information? – D.H.

Chromobacterium lives in the soil and water of places that are in the tropics or have mild winters. The bacterium can enter the body through a minor skin cut or abrasion.

From there it can spread, by way of the blood, to the lungs, liver and spleen. Infection carries a mortality rate of around 60 percent.

I am at a loss to express my deepest sympathy to you. I can think of no greater sorrow than losing a child.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.

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